Home Forums Main YANAP Discussion Forum Prints – Limited or Open Editions – The multitude of pros and cons

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    It would be interesting to hear the thoughts of the community on whether or not (digital) photography prints should be sold as limited or open editions.

    Of course this is a long running argument – open editions make prints accessible to everyone (but can also turn them into a cheap commodity), signed limited editions increase value, galleries tend to demand that print editions have limits, putting digital images online makes it impossible to really know how many times an image has been reproduced….

    Then there is disagreement over what constitutes an edition, what size a limit should be, are vendors setting limits of greater numbers than would be sold as an open edition anyway rendering it a mere (and perhaps slightly cynical) marketing ploy?

    Personally I think both open and limited editions have their place, albeit the decision of what subjects and compositions should qualify for limitation can be complex but ideally should be rare or hard to reproduce.


    People are funny.  If something is thought to be unique it is worth more, even if it is ugly.  If you had a beautiful picture and reproduced it exactly, 10 times, why would a copy be worth any more or less than if you reproduced it exactly, 100 times, or 1000 times?   Some books are out of print and when there are thought to be only a few copies left in existence they are usually considered very valuable.  Is it the book itself — the paper and cover — or the text inside that is the true value?  Why not just typeset it and make a few thousand more?

    With the right scanning equipment, no photograph is difficult to reproduce, and it is even easier if you have the negative or a digital file.  Taking or making the image in the first place is where all the work is.

    I forget the company’s name.  There is an organization that issues serial numbers for photographs so purchasers can be assured they have an official copy of a limited print run.

    While I think there is something to be said for having an original oil painting, because it contains the artist’s brush strokes and paint, I think the notion does not apply to something like a photographic print.

    I think there is an argument to be made for licensing photos to advertisers or publications.  There is more value if the distribution is larger.


    If you are a well known photographer I can see the point of having a limited run, if not then it is more whether there are galleries that would want your images and actually think they can sell them. For the average tog I suspect open editions are better


    The reality is that unless your name is Peter Lik or someone that sells at that level limited editions really don’t add any real value and they can be a pain in the butt to do.

    I sell a fair amount of art prints (I average on print a day in some form or another.) When it comes down to it, I haven’t sold any single image more than 20 times. Pretty limited without being unlimited. I think price point plays more a role in perceived value than offering limited editions.  The higher a price point, within reason, means more perceived value.



    I do think its a bit of a marketing gimmick for most not well known photographers and artists but as long as its not actively dishonest I don’t see any problem with it.

    The reality is that for most selling art is a very tough business indeed and if adding a limated edition number and a signature makes it a bit clearer to a customer that your work is the product of someone selling for themselves rather than via a large company then why not? obviously the quality of the work should make it stand out from your typical bland mass produced print but why not add a bit extra?

    As far as the idea of creating public access to your work goes I think again the reality is that unless your limited editions are very small(say 10-20) its unlikely its going to be a limating factor in your overall sales, like JC I don’t think I’v ever sold more than 20 copies of a print dispite selling them as limated editions of 50. Your simply not going to get into the mass poster market, its too price sensitive.

    If theres a moral judgement about access I think it depends more on price, the whole world isn’t likely to want a copy of your prints but if your selling at say £50-100 each then more of society can afford them than if your selling at £500-1000 each.


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